Which American-born forward could be the ‘next’ Mike Modano?

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ESPN’s Craig Custance took a look at what might be an impossible role to fill today, as he “searched” for the next Mike Modano. (subscription required.) Custance’s take is an interesting one that’s worth reading, but here’s PHT impressions of who might be able to carry the torch for American hockey as the next ambassador for the sport.

Zach Parise – It’s natural to begin with Parise, the New Jersey Devils winger who wears the same number 9 as Modano. Parise shares one of Modano’s greatest traits: blazing speed, while he’s already a well-rounded player (which surely would have made Ken Hitchcock happy). Parise also seems like a polished crowd pleaser, much like Modano. As Custance points out, it can’t hurt that he already has a high-profile Olympic moment; Parise scored the last-minute goal that sent the 2010 gold medal game into overtime.

He might lack that little bit of “oomph” that made Modano special in his prime, though.

Patrick Kane – … which is where Kaner comes in. If you look at “filling Modano’s shoes” in a more abstract way, it’s about selling the game, and one could argue that Kane’s silky style is the most seductive of all American forwards. Kane is simply an electric player in a huge American market and he already has one thing that Modano achieved: a Stanley Cup ring.

On the other hand, there are some significant differences. Kane is undersized (listed at 5-foot-10) while Modano was a prototypical 6-foot-3. Kane also has a wild side that Modano lacked (or perhaps he was just lucky enough to hit his prime in the pre-Deadspin era).

Bobby Ryan – Much like Parise, Ryan also wears number 9. The Anaheim Ducks player sports a power forward style that conflicts with Modano’s finesse game, but the budding star might have the best chance of any active American forward to eclipse Modano’s all-time record for goals (561) among U.S.-born players.

Ryan Kesler – The two-way Canucks forward is another speedy American who showed that he can be an elite scorer last season. Kesler also brings plenty of charisma to the table, which could be a big part of the process. That being said, playing in Vancouver might work against him a bit.

James van Riemsdyk – Like Ryan, JVR’s style contrasts with Modano’s because he’s a power forward. That being said, the American-born winger is like Modano in that his impact just jumps out at you when he’s on top of his game. He also plays in a big hockey market in Philly, so he’ll get a chance to be a prominent U.S. player if he lives up to his recent contract extension.

Honorable mentions: Dustin Brown, Paul Stastny (if you count him), Phil Kessel, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Joe Pavelski.

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The cop-out answer is to say that Modano’s “role” will be filled by committee. That list of players brings some great skills to the table, with some of Modano’s strengths as well as strengths of their own.

If I had to pick one, though, I’d go off the board and side with Kane. The Chicago Blackhawks winger is a delight to watch and his dizzying skill should be more obvious to casual fans than most. He also has plenty of personality, which can’t ever hurt. He might want to work on that mouthpiece-chewing habit a bit, though.

Devils, Hischier agree to seven-year, $50.75 million extension

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While the Devils don’t know yet if Taylor Hall will sign an extension to remain in New Jersey or find a new home next summer in free agency, GM Ray Shero has young locked down one of the team’s core pieces.

On Friday, Nico Hischier agreed to a seven-year, $50.75 million extension that carries a $7.25 million cap hit through the 2026-27 NHL season. The deal buys three unrestricted free agent years since the Devils forward has been playing since he was 18, per Cap Friendly.

“Nico is a special person who possess a team-first mentality combined with an inner drive to succeed,” said Shero in a statement. The entire organization is thankful to him and his family for believing in our future. We are excited that he will continue to play a prominent role with us for many years to come.”

According to the Devils, here’s the year-by-year breakdown:

2020-21: $7,000,000 (includes $3 million signing bonus)
2021-22: $7,250,000
2022-23:  $4,500,000
2023-24:  $7,750,000
2024-25:  $7,750,000
2025-26:  $8,000,000
2026-27:  $8,500,000

The extension also features a modified no-trade clause in the final three years.

In 157 NHL games, Hischier, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, has 37 goals and 101 points while averaging over 17 minutes a night. His offense has been just fine with a 20 and 17 goals in his first two seasons, but his two-way game is what’s really boosted his talent.

The 20-year-old center joins the list of NHLers who passed on restricted free agency in 2020 to put pen to paper on a new deal, joining the likes of Alex DeBrincat, Clayton Keller, Thomas Chabot, and Sam Girard.

Mathew Barzal, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Dylan Strome, and Mikhail Sergachev are some of the other potential 2020 RFAs who will be looking for extensions before next season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Helm fined $5K for slash on Flames’ Lindholm

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Darren Helm and Elias Lindholm had a little battle in the third period of Thursday’s 5-1 Flames win and it has resulted in a $5,000 fine for the Red Wings forward.

It all began during a face-off when Lindholm got taken down by Helm. The Flames forward took exception and skated after Helm as the puck entered the Calgary zone. The tiff continued on with Lindholm throwing an elbow at Helm, who responded by getting up off the ice and slashing Lindholm in the back of the leg.

“Their guy comes with an elbow that should have probably been called right away,” said Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill. “Then Darren reacts to that as most guys would, you get an elbow to the face for no reason you’re going to react. We got to be more disciplined in those situations, but he slashed him. I don’t think the slash was that super-hard, but it sure looked hard the way he went down.”

The fine is the maximum amount allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Helm was given a major for slashing and a game misconduct, while Lindholm got off with just an interference minor. Lindholm was helped to the dressing room and there’s been no update yet on his condition.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

LA Kings set Guinness World Record for ‘Largest Laser Show’

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The Los Angeles Kings may have dropped their third in a row Thursday night and fell to 2-5-0 on the season, but they set a world record during the first intermission.

The Kings’ game presentation department used 642 lasers as part of the Guinness Book of World Records “Largest Laser Show” at STAPLES Center. So, yeah, they were shutout, but they made history.

For the record, the first-period goals by Casey Mittelstadt and Conor Sheary did not, in fact, count toward the final laser total.

With Thursday being the 20th anniversary of the opening of the arena, which featured a Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band concert back in 1999, the Kings wanted to do something special, so they went and shattered the previous record of 342, per the team.

Now, if only one of those lasers could have destroyed the “cursed” Taylor Swift banner

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Kempny returns to Capitals’ blue line for first time since March

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Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer doing the ceremonial puck drop honors won’t be the only thing Capitals fans can look forward to Friday night. Defenseman Michal Kempny will make his long-awaited return to the ice against the Rangers after tearing his hamstring in March.

Kempny, who was paired with Radko Gudas during Friday’s morning skate, was given a four-to-six month timeline after undergoing surgery right before the end of last season.

“Yeah, I’m playing tonight. It’s been a long time. I’m very excited,” Kempny said. “There was a lot of hard days, especially from the beginning of the rehab, small steps make me happy. I think it’s part of rehab and all the bad is behind me and I’m just focusing now [on] today’s game.”

Kempny knows he won’t be logging heavy minutes just yet and wants to focus on getting back into the normal routine of a regular player. How his ice time is managed will be something his head coach has to worry about.

“We have a range we’d like to have him in and we’ll see how the game goes,” said Todd Reirden. “Obviously he’s fresh, he’s skating really well, he’s in unbelievable condition, so now it’s just to see how it transfers into game action and how his wind is and his conditioning.”

Braden Holtby is back between the pipes are being given a one game “reset,” as Reirden put it. How he fares against the Rangers will either pause the goalie controversy talk with Ilya Samsonov for now or only add more fuel to the fire.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.